Reduce Your Salt Intake

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Filed Under: Diet, General Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Reduce Your Salt Intake

Learn how to incorporate this key dietary change into your daily routine

It goes without saying that reducing your salt intake is very important if you want to achieve optimal health. Excessive salt, or sodium, can cause or exacerbate various health problems.

Most people know that excessive salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. But did you know that excess sodium is especially bad for people with kidney disease? Or that it’s been associated with osteoporosis, asthma, ulcers, and stomach cancer?

Stanford researchers estimate that if we reduced our sodium consumption to an average of 2,300 mg daily we could prevent 100,000 heart attacks and 92,000 deaths annually, and save $24 billion in health care costs.

Sources of Sodium

Every cell in your body requires sodium, but the amount that occurs naturally in food is, in most cases, all you need. Unfortunately, this accounts for a very small percentage of our salt intake. We also use salt as a condiment and add it to food during cooking. But, our most abundant source of sodium is processed food.

Sodium in processed food is especially insidious, because much of it is in foods where you’d least expect to find it—cereals, cookies, and “healthy” items such as low-fat soups, which often don’t taste salty.

For example, you may be surprised to learn that a serving of corn flakes contains more sodium than a serving of cocktail peanuts; chocolate pudding has even more sodium.

Eat Less Sodium and More Potassium

First, dramatically reduce your intake of processed foods, since that’s where most sodium comes from. Second, increase your potassium intake. Why? Research has shown that your ratio of potassium to sodium is even more important than the amount of sodium you consume.

For instance, according to one study, the effects of eating more potassium are “of similar magnitude to what can be achieved by lowering sodium intake.” The researchers suggested that this could be accomplished by eating more potassium-rich vegetables and fruits and replacing sodium chloride—especially in processed foods—with potassium salt.

How to Increase Your Potassium Intake

We’ve been using this approach at Whitaker Wellness for years. In place of regular salt, we mix three parts potassium chloride (Nu-Salt or Morton’s Salt Substitute) with one part sodium chloride.

Potassium chloride by itself has a metallic taste and doesn’t enhance flavor much. However, with this mixture, which provides a substantial amount of potassium, few people can tell the difference. Using this potassium-salt combo for all of your seasoning and cooking will help to lower your daily sodium intake and also increase your potassium levels.

We also serve our patients lots of plant foods, plus 12 ounces of Low Sodium V8 juice per day, which adds an additional 1,350 mg of potassium.

By dramatically reducing the amount of processed foods you consume and taking these steps to increase your potassium intake, you can significantly improve your sodium to potassium ratio and subsequently your health.

More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Diet and Optimal Health

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